Detroit: The Next Design Mecca?

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Rivera Court at the Detroit Institute of Arts The Rivera Court at the Detroit Institute of Arts (Courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Arts)

Reed Kroloff is no stranger to cities that are in need of a rebirth. As a former dean of architecture at Tulane University, he was responsible for bringing back 97 percent of the school's student body after Hurricane Katrina. He is also an active organizer and adviser for dozens of new public works competitions around the country.

For this reason, it’s no surprise that Kroloff has a special place in his heart for Detroit. A city that’s struggled, Detroit is also a creative community with a design legacy of which it’s proud.

This week, that creativity is on display at the second annual Detroit Design Festival. Kroloff, as the director of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, is among those involved in the festival.

"It's a group of people very actively trying to figure out how you remake a city that has stumbled. And Detroit is definitely a city that has stumbled." 

But where others might see failure, Kroloff sees opportunity. Having also worked on The High Line, a project that made a public park of an abandoned elevated train track in New York City, Kroloff is inspired by stumbles.  

Kroloff also reminds us that design is not entirely new to the Motor City. "It's an architectural treasure trove in the center of Detroit," he says. "This is a place that has had some of the world's greatest architects at work on it, for a period of almost a hundred years."

Having seen all of the innovation and creativity that is on display at the design festival, Kroloff is optimistic that Detroit could be the next design mecca.

Reed Kroloff is a TED talker and the director of the Cranbrook Academy of Art.


Reed Kroloff

Produced by:

Martina Guzmán, Kristen Meinzer and Maggie Penman

Comments [3]

Alex from Detroit

Detroit invented the assembly line, put the world in cars, and earned the name "The Arsenal of Democracy" by building the armaments that won World War II.

Now we rely on artists to remake an American city.

We need real investment in Detroit and a new paradigm for reinventing a city. There are opportunities for this to happen, and there is ample space for experiments in art and architecture. But artists are supposed to take risks, accept failure, dust themselves off and try again. Placing the weight of 700,000 people on their shoulders as they go through this process is irresponsible and foolish.

Sep. 24 2012 12:22 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Frankensteining a city's old architecture is the way to go. Instead of knocking down an amazing building, taking the ruins and thinking creatively will save money and preserve our history. How exciting

Sep. 21 2012 10:38 AM
Angel from Miami, FL

A lot of people I know.. A LOT, thought we should just abandon New Orleans. Some are saying the same thing about Detroit. Abandon 100+ year old cities? In America? That's crazy. A lot of people I know... A LOT, live in Surreal America. They have difficulty seeing in other people the same hopes and fears and goals and failures that they themselves experience. Who knows, maybe there's an anti-community gene built into humankind.

Sep. 21 2012 10:31 AM

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